Baltimore City Paper


1. Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap (self-released) Twenty-year-old Chance the Rapper mixes wordy, nerdy ruminations on stuff like feeling-weird-about-kissing-your-grandma moments after you’ve burned one with let’s-cut-the-bullshit pleas for somebody, anybody to care about the violence in his hometown of Chicago. Crooned hooks cribbed from College Dropout-era Kanye‘s playbook and psychedelic wordplay make for a free download simultaneously solipsistic and open-hearted. We’re lucky to get this less than a year after Kendrick Lamar’s similarly masterful good kid, m.A.A.d city. (Brandon Soderberg)


2. Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park (Mercury) It would be a mistake to think of this brilliant album as alt-country, even with its frank discussion of casual sex, gay sex, drugs, and hypocritical churchgoers. This is mainstream country at its best; it topped the country album charts, shone with impeccable writing, singing, and playing, and criticized small-town American life with the knowing affection of an insider. Not for nothing did this young Texan use the first person on her two top-40 singles: “Merry Go ’Round” and “Blowin’ Smoke.” (Geoffrey Himes)


3. Jason Isbell, Southeastern (Southeastern) The Drive-By Truckers already had two great songwriters on board by the time Jason Isbell joined the band. And then he proceeded to blow Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley away. On Southeastern, a newly sober Isbell makes the strongest record of his career, with heartbreaking and gorgeous stories about troubled lives and rare redemption. (Baynard Woods)


4. Kanye West, Yeezus (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam) While it veers off path from his usual grand-sounding, soulful sampling epics, Kanye West’s Yeezus was a great fuck you to mainstream convention. Industrial production, video game-like synths, and abrupt shifts in momentum pair great with his familiar fire and passion, which are at an all-time high. (Lawrence Burney)


5. Elvis Costello and the Roots, Wise up Ghost (Blue Note) Neither Declan MacManus nor hip-hop’s greatest band is the chameleonic jack-of-all-parades they imagine themselves to be. And that’s actually the best thing about this summit of two serial collaborators—it really just sounds like an Elvis Costello record that’s been lowered into the murky, dubby funk of great latter-day Roots albums like Game Theory. (Al Shipley)


6. J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Essential Tremors (ATO) We still like to claim J. Roddy and the Business as a Baltimore band, but since three of the four members no longer live here (hold strong, Billy!) and since Essential Tremors was good enough to hold its own against any music from anywhere this year, we decided to open another slot on the local list and let this record—on which the band really solidifies its Southern rock/boogie-woogie-inflected sound and expands it considerably—shine on the national stage. (BW)


7. Carcass, Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast) Metal’s pursuit of extremity has pushed it into some fascinating, if forbidding places. Leave it to some veteran extremists who haven’t made a record in 18 years to return to the scene and blow everyone else away with brutal metal that nonetheless emphasizes melodies, hooks, and, well, fun, assuming that ripping blastbeats and lyrics about abattoirs are your idea of a good time. (Lee Gardner)


8. Ka, The Night’s Gambit (Iron Works) Ka rhymes with a cinematic economy, every word an emotional, narrative, and descriptive jab. The veteran underground Brooklyn MC doesn’t rap to pay the bills, and his sublimely elemental music basks in the creative freedom from commercialized superficiality. This is hip-hop as personal and penetrating as a Chester Himes novel. (Bret McCabe)


9. My Bloody Valentine, mbv (self-released) The followup to My Bloody Valentine’s canonical 1991 album, Loveless, was so often promised and delayed that you’d be forgiven for thinking it would never come out. But 22 years later mbv finally arrived and it did not disappoint. The sublimely effervescent “New You” alone is worth the wait. But please, don’t make us wait another 22 years. (Michael Shank)


10. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze (Matador) With album number five, Vile’s hypnotic guitar plucking and hazy vocals reached their blissful best, and it only feels like he’s just starting to hit his stride. The songs on Wakin On a Pretty Daze are as entrancing as they are catchy, as easy to get hooked on as lost in. (Brandon Weigel)